By Randal Charlton
May 20, 2010
When I set up my last company in 2000, I was past my 60th birthday. A few years later when the company went public, I had already qualified for Social Security checks. At the time, a few of my friends commented that it was a little late in life to be involved in entrepreneurial activity. Fact is, we are finding that the older generation, including a large number of the Baby Boomer population, is exchanging the excitement of developing new business opportunities for the relaxed environment of retirement.
Last year, TechTown ran a series of meetings designed to interest people in taking their future into their own hands and starting new businesses. The events, called FastTrac to the Future, were attended by more than 2,500 people. Of these, 1,500 signed up for business training classes. Now, a survey that has been issued exclusively by Corp! magazine reveals that a large number of these new entrepreneurs are embarking on second careers.
More than 30 percent of FastTrac attendees who were surveyed were more than 45 years of age. Another 10 percent were more than 55 years of age. A high percentage - more than 70 percent - had a university education, and of these fully 25 percent had a master’s degree. Many of these new entrepreneurs were transferring skills that they had honed in the auto industry and applying them to new industries. One example is Linda Angell, a former General Motors employee, who is now generating revenue with her exciting new company called Touchstone Evaluations.
In the next few days, TechTown and Corp! magazine are collaborating to put on three more full days of top-class speakers to introduce more potential entrepreneurs to the opportunities that lie ahead for starting new businesses (http://wayne.edu/fasttrac/). There has never been a better time. History shows us that some of the most exciting new businesses are established in recessionary times.
The three-day event will take place on May 24, 25 and 26. The first day is a reunion for entrepreneurs who were trained and began their businesses last year; May 25 and 26 are for entrepreneurs seeking to follow in their path.
On all three days, we expect many of the attendees will be former executives or individuals in the second half of their careers. They will find that there is a wide range of support services waiting to help them begin their entrepreneurial adventure. These services include low-cost space, networking, access to new technology, training, mentoring, interns, and of course, introductions to sources of finance, as well as a host of other business services. Many of the entrepreneurs who are signing up for FastTrac have had at least six months of unemployment. It’s easy in such circumstances to lose confidence, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and that you will have access to a wide range of support services.
One of the perks of the day will be an offer to sign up for a free subscription to Corp!.
Across the nation there is an entrepreneurial trend emerging in which new businesses are being started by mature individuals. I believe that this will lead to a much greater success rate. I know in my own case when I started my last business, I was able to deal with challenges more effectively because I had the benefit of a great deal of previous experience. Think hard about using your experience to take an idea and turn it into an IPO over the next few years.
Randal Charlton is executive director of TechTown in Detroit. He can be reached at [email protected].